22 Jan 2021

Let Justice from Your Presence Come: Psalm 17

My new acquaintance, the Rev. Brian Wright, has recently posted this video of his musical setting of Psalm 17 from the Book of Psalms for Worship: Let Justice from Your Presence Come.

Wright has also posted a website devoted to his Anatomy of the Soul project, including opportunities to acquire CD recordings and sheet music. Do take a look.

18 Jan 2021

Praying the imprecatory psalms

I have now placed in the right sidebar a link to a new page: GOD AS JUDGE: PRAYING THE IMPRECATORY PSALMS. This is a slight adaptation of last month's post: God as Judge: Do we still pray the imprecatory Psalms? I decided to devote a page to this topic because the subject is basic to our understanding of the Psalter as a whole. Moreover, because we confess that Scripture is the Word of God, we need better to understand God's purposes in inspiring the biblical authors to write these passages.

13 Jan 2021

Psalm 95: Koyzis and Koyzis

Back in 1993 my sister Yvonne and I recorded this metrical version of Psalm 95, whose text I set to verse to be sung to the melody of the ancient Cypriot song T'ai Yiorkou. Recorded in St. Barnabas Church, Glen Ellyn, Illinois. The images in the video are of various places around Cyprus and of psalm-related material.

11 Jan 2021

Melodies for the Polish Psalter

The following appears to be from an old long-play vinyl record of Kochanowski's and Gomółka's collection: Psalmy - Mikołaj Gomółka - Chór Stuligrosza. Performed by the Boys and Men's Choir of the Poznań Pharharmonia under the direction of Stefan Stuligrosz.

7 Jan 2021

Psalm 24:7-10 St. George's, Edinburgh Scottish Metrical Psalter 1650

We've not sung this Psalm in our church in some time, but it is a traditional entrance hymn for the Lord's Supper in Scotland, where our congregation finds its roots:

5 Jan 2021

Psalm 29: Nieście chwałę mocarze

If you use the title of Psalm 29 in Polish as a keyword when searching YouTube, you will find several performances of Kochanowski and Gomółka's version of this psalm.The following video is highly unusual. It's a rock version from an album called Pospolite Ruszenie. Admittedly, it will not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is testimony to how deeply embedded this song is in the Polish musical repertoire.

There. That's done. Now here's one that many of us will likely prefer: Mikołaj Gomółka (XVI w.) - Nieście chwałę mocarze, performed in the Ukrainian city of Lviv at the 13th Early Music Festival:

2 Jan 2021

Psalm 29: David's Psalter

Here is another performance of Psalm 29 from the Polish David's Psalter, arranged by Adam Cichocki and performed by the Exaudi Chamber Choir. There is a bit of interference from a cell phone ring tone at one point. Judging by the number of performances of this piece on YouTube, it would seem that this is the best known and best loved of Kochanowski and Gomółka's Polish metred psalms.

28 Dec 2020

Psalm 23: Cross Free Church

The congregation of Cross Free Church, Cross, Isle of Lewis, Scotland, sings Psalm 23 to the tune NEW BRITAIN, apparently a popular tune to which to sing psalms. This was from a special worship service recorded in August 1992.

23 Dec 2020

Psalm 22: Sternhold & Hopkins

Not a lot has been done with the Sternhold & Hopkins Psalter (1562) on YouTube, except by the Scottish Psalter CMD channel, whose recordings I am reluctant to recommend. However, someone has posted a very nice vocal rendition of Psalm 22:23-24, 31, set to the tune NEW BRITAIN, usually associated with John Newton's famous hymn, Amazing Grace. The arrangement is by John Purifoy, with Steve Boyce singing.

English Protestants sang from the S&H throughout the 17th century, and it became one of the principal liturgical resources of the Church of England, along with the Book of Common Prayer, Miles Coverdale's prose Psalter, the Books of Homilies, and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (1571). The S&H remained in use until Tate & Brady's "New Version" Psalter was produced. Metrical psalmody died out in England in the 19th century, perhaps due to the influence of the Oxford Movement, which brought back chanted psalmody. Today metrical psalmody is associated with Scotland, but at one time both of these ancient kingdoms sang the Psalms in metre.

Here is Psalm 22, posted earlier this year:

22 Dec 2020

Psalms 91 and 93 chanted

This chanted version of Psalm 91 is interesting for two reasons. First, although it is sung in Latin, it uses the Hebrew numbering of the psalm. In both the Septuagint and the Vulgate it is numbered Psalm 90. Second, the style of chant is much more similar to Greek Orthodox than to the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church familiar to us today. A certain Dom Johannes Benedict OSB writes here:

My Experience as a Monk for over 40 plus years, trained in Liturgical Chant, this is Chant is from the time Period in The Universal Church when the Liturgy of both the Latin or Western Church and those Churches in The Byzantine or Eastern regions was very similar in both the Structure of The Eucharistic Liturgy, Music and Liturgical Art and Vestments and Vessels. I refer you to the Melody of this Chant, plus the Early Liturgical Texts and Museum Pieces of Liturgical Art, plus the existence of St. Mark's, Venice and the Churches in Sicily.


 Listen to another chant with a similar flavour. This one is Psalm 93(92):

21 Dec 2020

Paul Krause on the Psalms

I just posted a link on my other blog to an article by Paul Krause, Hebraic Exceptionalism and Western Exceptionalism. After the fourth asterisk, he takes up the biblical Psalms, comparing them with Augustine's Confessions

The Psalms were—and remain—the great book of praise, introspection, and prophecy. The Book of Psalms was the most read and commented book of all Scripture in the early Church. Augustine devoted himself to countless hours meditating on the Psalms since meditation of the Psalms is “the meditation of [the] heart understanding,” as Psalm 48 says.

What makes the Psalms so moving and powerful is that it is a window into the agony and hope of a man, a mortal man like the rest of us, a man whose glory is well-known but whose failures and sins are also well-known. This is why Augustine’s Confessions remain, after one and a half millennia, an enduring testament of Western and Christian literature. Confessions is a window into a broken but ambitious sinner-turned-saint. Augustine’s Confessions, like David’s Psalms, penetrates the depth of the human psyche like no other ancient work of literature and gives a grand display of the self in its earliest formation . . . .

The Psalms are special because the Psalms narrate a spiritual journey, a spiritual flight, the ascent of David (in particular) to be with his God. They are far more influential on Augustine than Plotinus’s unemotional elaborations on the Soul’s desire to reunite with the One. The movement of the inward soul to the seat of Divinity planted in the heart of man is revealed in Scripture and not Greek philosophy. Following Scripture, not Plotinus, Augustine’s Confessions narrates a spiritual and physical pilgrimage.

Original psalm tunes: Anatomy of the Soul

A fairly new YouTube channel, Anatomy of the Soul, belonging to RPCNA pastor Brian Wright, has posted several metrical psalms, using the texts of the Book of Psalms for Worship sets to original music which he himself composed. Here is Psalm 119:105-112:

And here is Psalm 141:1-4:

And finally, here is an especially lovely and plaintive rendition of Psalm 73:13-22:

I appreciate the singer/composer Brian Wright setting the psalm texts to new music. Some may feel disoriented singing psalms to familiar tunes that we have come to associate with other texts. Music written especially for the texts is most appropriate and will help us to focus better on their message.

19 Dec 2020

Sternhold & Hopkins' Metrical Psalter

The same year that the Genevan Psalter was completed and published, 1562, saw the publication as well of the English-language Sternhold & Hopkins Psalter. Its origins also reach to Geneva, where English protestants were living in exile during the reign of Queen Mary (1553-1558), whose ruthless persecution of protestants is recounted in Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Two years earlier the Geneva Bible had been published, and subsequent editions included, not only the book of Psalms proper, but also Miles Coverdale's prose Psalms from the Book of Common Prayer and the Sternhod & Hopkins metrical psalter. The Remnant's Voice channel on YouTube has recently posted nearly eight hours of a computer-generated male voice reading through the entire Sternhold & Hopkins, including such non-psalm canticles as the Te Deum and the Benedicite Omnia Opera.

I do not necessarily recommend listening to the entire recording, but it may serve as a handy reference for those interested in the S&H. However, this might work better: The Whole Book of Psalms Collected into English Metre By Thomas Sternhold, John Hopkins, and Others. Some of the texts differ from the recorded version, suggesting revisions between 1562 and 1599. The S&H remained in use throughout the 17th century in England until replaced by Tate & Brady's "New Version" Psalter in 1696.

18 Dec 2020

Psalm 27: two versions (plus one)

Here are two versions of Psalm 27, the first from the Book of Psalms for Worship:

 And the second from the Genevan Psalter:

And while we're at it, let's hear a Dutch congregation singing the same psalm, with Hendrik Hasper's lyrics. Recorded in GKV De Rank in Zuidhorn with Egbert Minnema at the organ.

17 Dec 2020

Gaelic Psalm-singing: Psalm 107

This is a rather different form of Gaelic Psalm-singing from what we often hear in congregations from the Scottish Hebrides: Psalm 107:21-30 (Gaelic) sung by Kristine Kennedy to the tune Loch Broom. The voice and the tune are lovely, although I'm not convinced that the tune precisely fits the mood of Psalm 107.

I personally find the proper Genevan melody for this psalm a better fit. But see what you think:

15 Dec 2020

14 Dec 2020

Psalm 23 (The Bays of Harris): The 1650

This congregational singing of Psalm 23 has some of the flavour of the lining out we heard earlier of Gaelic Psalm singing, but the rhythm is more even and the singing is more lively. This is not a practised choir but a sturdy congregation whose voices blend beautifully in praise of God.

12 Dec 2020

Psalms 8 and 46

Two more offerings from the RPCNA Psalter: First, Lord, Our Lord (Psalm 8b).


And second, God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength (Psalm 46a).

9 Dec 2020

He Will Save the Needy (Psalm 72e)

This is a great metrical rendition of Psalm 72:12-20 set to the tune of the lively South African hymn, Siyahamba. Who says Reformed Presbyterians are stuck with the old Scottish tunes? Might we call this genre "Covenanter Swing"?

8 Dec 2020